Black Swan State Theatre Company officially launched their 2014 season Monday night at the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre. On hand for the evening’s festivities to warm up the buzzing crowd was Perth jazz chanteuse Libby Hammer, and amongst the denizens were a few nationally famous faces and a considerable number of Perth’s own star talent.
The normally sparse brass-and-wood lobby was decked out in greenery and colourful paper lanterns, reminding us that summer and a new season is just around the corner.
Once inside the theatre, General Manager Shane Colquhoun and Chairman Mark Barnaba gave a brief welcome to everyone in attendance as well as all the company’s corporate sponsors, donors and patrons. After the preliminaries, Artistic Director Kate Cherry came to the stage to get down to the business of announcing next year’s line-up.
BSSTC’s 2014 season will open with modern American theatre classic A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and will star the iconic Sigrid Thornton (who came to the podium to say a few words about the show) as the notorious Blanche DuBois. Kate Cherry will be directing this perennial favourite, which also stars Nathaniel Dean and will feature Benj D’Addario, Luke Hewitt, Michael Loney, Rhoda Lopez, William McNeill, Steve Turner and Alison van Reeken.
The second main stage show will be Shakespeare’s As You Like It starring Jovana Miletic as Rosalind and directed by Helpmann Award-winner Roger Hodgman. The cast includes many WA favourites as well as a few up-and-comers making their debut with the company. It promises to be a light, youthful, music-filled production.
Up third is the world premiere of Dust by Suzie Miller, a work commissioned by Rio Tinto, which will be directed by Emily McLean. McLean joined Kate Cherry on stage to say a few words and emphasized the importance of bringing Australian stories to Australian stages, which is all part of the process of creating Australian culture and defining its identity. The cast includes Fayssal Bazzi, Benj D’Addario, Charlotte Devenport, Alison van Reeken and Gemma Willing.
It’s back to the classics with the fourth main stage show, which is none other than Chekhov’s The Seagull. In another major talent coup for Black Swan, Kate Cherry has enlisted internationally known (but Perth-connected) film and television actress Greta Scacchi to interpret the role of Arkadina. She will be joined on stage by her daughter Leila George as Nina. Other cast includes Rebecca Davis and Michael Loney.
In the fifth spot is the WA premiere of Neil Simon’s comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor and will star Max Prince, under the direction of Kate Cherry. Max Prince was on hand to say a few words, but in the end he just told the audience to “forget about the other shows, just come and see this one.” The only other cast mentioned as yet is Peter Rowsthorn, but hopefully Cherry has found, or will find, a few more comedians to flesh this one out a little. It’s a big stage.
BSSTC wraps up its main stage productions with Gasp! by Ben Elton, which is a biting satire about the privatisation of natural resources. It will be directed by Wesley Enoch and will feature Damon Lockwood and Steven Rooke. This will be a co-production with Queensland Theatre Company.
BSSTC is branching out (or should I say taking root) in the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre, by producing two shows as part of their new initiative called the Black Swan Lab. This program will see the introduction of two world premiere works, the first being Flood, by Chris Isaacs (co-creator of It’s Dark Outside) and directed by Adam Mitchell, which will serve as BSSTC’s entry into Fringe World 2014. Cast will include Joshua Brennan, Adriane Daff, Will O’Mahony and Rose Riley, and is the first play to come out of Black Swan’s Emerging Writers Program.
The second Black Swan Lab/Studio Underground production will come mid-year and is called The House on the Lake written by Aidan Fennessy. This is a two-hander set in what we believe is a hospital room, with what we assume is a patient and a doctor; it will feature Kenneth Ransom in one of the roles of this psychological thriller.
BSSTC is going from strength to strength and looks to be building on its reputation for producing works of considerable quality. With their further expansion into contemporary Australian and local theatre, Black Swan is taking an active role in securing opportunities for the amazingly talented pool of WA creatives amongst its ranks. They are beginning to actively reach out to independent theatre makers and emerging artists to make sure BSSTC continues to bolster Perth’s growing culture and arts scene. 2014 looks to be a promising, exciting year for WA’s flagship theatre company.